Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Knitting and Spinning

I just realized that, despite blogging off and on for a couple years now, I don't have any posts about knitting or spinning.  It's probably because I haven't really been doing a lot of either.  I tend to do these things in cycles.

I have many crafty interests.  Besides gardening and fiber arts (the knitting and spinning), I do beadwork, leatherwork, sewing, crochet (which is another kind of fiber art, but not one I enjoy as much as the knitting and spinning) and others I'm probably not thinking of at the moment.

I don't do any of them with any regularity except gardening, though knitting and spinning do get paid more attention than the others.

With all the websites getting hacked recently, I decided it prudent to close those website accounts I don't really use much.  This included my Flikr account (I much prefer Picasa now).  There were a lot of pretty pictures there of my spinning and knitting that I hadn't seen in a while.  I'm rather proud of them, so I thought I'd share some here.

Rather than making one massive post, I think I'll break it up into a few.  This one is about KoolAid dyeing.

Yes, you really can dye things with KoolAid.  You just boil the water, turn off the heat, mix in the KoolAid, then add whatever it is you want to dye and wait for the water to turn clear signaling that all the dye has been taken up.  Be sure to soak the item well in water beforehand, and stir it around to ensure even absorption of the color.  If you don't, you'll get a marbled effect, but that really can be quite nice in itself.  So if you want that, just put the item in the water gently when it's dry and don't stir. 

The pictures here are all of yarn and things dyed with KoolAid.  I wish I would have made better notes on which kind I used.  Best I remember, I used Tropical Punch, Black Cherry and Blue Raspberry for these items.

I think the Tropical Punch is what I used on the first two pictures (same yarn in both), Blue Raspberry on the second set (again, same yarn in both) and Black Cherry on the last three (yep, same yarn in those two, too).  I know I used Watermelon as well and a couple others ~ Lemonade I think.  But these are my favorites.

 I dyed the fiber before spinning.  That's where the old saying "dyed in the wool" came from, meaning from the beginning, before the beginning actually, an intrinsic part of the thing. 

I remember having fun watching the color of the fiber change as it ran through my hands, getting a bit lighter as small amounts of the fiber was pulled off the main hunk and twisted.  I also remember the pleasant smell coming off it as I worked.

We didn't really get much KoolAid when I was a kid, instead drinking water, milk or juice made from fruit we grew or wild-harvested.  So no childhood reminiscences here.  But it was still nice.

I noticed that the colors went so well with the natural color of the wool I was using, so I decided to ply them with a strand of white.  This had a nice side effect of stretching the dyed wool so I was able to make much more of it yardage-wise. 

I've also dyed already-knitted things with KoolAid.  The last three pictures are of some socks I knitted, then dyed.  I don't remember which color this was ~ maybe Tropical Punch again?    
They turned out really well.  Bright red, and how!

Maybe now you want to try your hand at KoolAid dyeing.  Go ahead.  You know you want to...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blue potatoes!!

We dug the potatoes last night.  It was fun.  I'd thought we would have to literally dig them, but the All Blues apparently don't produce very deeply.  George was able to get the vast majority of them out just using his hands, digging around the base of each plant.

I went ahead with the shovel and found a few he missed, though not many at all.  I almost quit, but the soil was turning over so nicely that I kept going more to get the bed ready for replanting than anything else.

I planted four pounds and it looks like four times as many, but weighing them on the floor scales says we only got ten pounds total.  I've long thought those scales lie.

Tomato Taste-Off, Part One

Picked an entire basketful of tomatoes today.  It was glorious!  Something's eating into quite a few of them (20 or so so far, guesstimate), so I need to figure out what that is and hopefully I can stop it.  In the meantime, I'll be picking a few when they are about half ripe and let them ripen on the counter.  German Johnson and Red Brandywine are two I picked early, but they're not ripe enough to eat yet. 

I picked out the ones that weren't ripe yet and set them on the counter.  Next, I picked out some of the prettiest ones and set them aside for eating fresh.  Last were the ones to go in the freezer.  I got two big gallon ziplocs out of the first round and half a ziploc of Romas later. 
The freezer will be full soon at this rate.  They should have company soon ~ two calves we're going to have butchered.  A story for another post...

When George gets time, he'll cook them down for pasta sauce.  It's going to be heavenly!  Tomatoes, onions, peppers, parsley, oregano, marjoram and thyme, all from the garden.  I can't wait to eat some.  It's so satisfying to sit down to a meal that the majority of was raised by me.

As I was sorting the tomatoes, I was also saving seeds.  You may have noticed some black writing on some of the tomatoes in the picture above.  I take a sharpie out to the garden with me and write the name of the tomato right on it to make sure I don't get them mixed up. 

Once inside, I simply cut the tomato horizontally, squeeze the seeds into a labeled cup, fill with water and set off to the side to ferment.  I've got them sitting on a table in the corner of the dining room and they're already drawing fruit flies.  Nine varieties so far (two cups are Cherokee Purple).

Along the way of all this freezing and seed saving I did some tasting.  Here's how the contestants are faring so far.

Black Giant (in photo at right) ~ Flavor: wonderfully acidic and rich, all around really good. Huge slicing size.  Skins very tender. Heavy producer, possibly because it was planted early, in the second wave of planting.

Cherokee Purple ~ Flavor: strong, bold and rich.  One of my favorite tomatoes.  My two plants have produced like crazy, probably because I got them in so early, though I had heard CP produces well in the heat.

Oxheart ~ Flavor: Usual tomato taste, acidic, pretty darn good.  MASSIVE tomatoes at first.  Produces quite a bit, probably because I got them in early (second wave of planting). 

Riesentraube ~ Flavor: full bodied, sweet but acidity shines through just enough.  Large cherry size.  Produces in a large bunch with a dozen or more on each truss.  Has set two trusses so far.

Silvery Fir Tree ~ Flavor: Strong and acidic, VERY good.  Small slicing size.  Average amount of seeds, average to low amount of meat, and tough skins.  Pretty inside regardless.  Weak plant, not drought tolerant at all ~ never got very big (1/6 the size of others planted at same time) and died after a few days without water when others next to it just wilted (might do better in a cooler climate or some other year than this record-breaking HOT drought). 

Juliet ~ Flavor: nothing special, but pretty good when you haven't had home grown tomatoes for a year.  Tough skin.  HEAVY producer, early, too.

Matt's Wild Cherry ~ Flavor: tart and acidic.  Lots of flavor for such a tiny little thing.  Tough skins.  Produces absolutely like MAD.  

Sungold ~ Flavor: nothing special again.  HEAVY and early producer.

Roma ~ Flavor: rich and yummy as ever.  Meaty with few seeds.  Heavy producer at first since it's a determinate.  Will cut it back and fertilize heavily after this flush to see if I can get another.

Principe Borghese ~ Flavor: nothing special and kind of bland.  Supposed to be delicious when dried, so I'll try that with the next few.  Didn't produce too many, but this plant was one of the last I put in.
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